The Musical Editing of ‘Whiplash’

In a previous blog post, I talked about why I think the editing Transporter 3 is worthy of attention. I should have discussed Whiplash since it won the Oscar for best editing, but I’m stubborn and prefer using my own examples. In the end though, I can’t really avoid it. The style of Whiplash’s editing is actually quite close to my own, and there’s a reason for that. The editor, Tim Cross, and myself both have a history editing music videos, and the director, Damien Chazelle, hired him specifically for that reason.

This excites me because in most of the movie industry, the editor has little of what I consider to be actual creative freedom in video production. Mostly, he’s just there to make the cuts he’s told to by the director and carry through someone else’s vision. But in Whiplash, the editor was given control. Supplied with the footage and the music, he was told “do what you do” and proceeded to do it.

I really want to emphasize how rare it is for an editor to be allowed so much power. When given the chance, Cross blew it out of the stands and made it known to the world that the editor is an artist too, not merely the voice of the director.

(spoiler warning: The following links contain clips from the end of the movie)

If you want a break down of the science behind the editing present in the film, this video is an excellent watch. However, it is my opinion that you shouldn’t really break down this kind of editing into a mere set of rules and techniques. Look at this. You can’t just say “he made a cut there because…” or “He let that shot linger in order to…” His choices are pure instinct. He wasn’t making decisions based on rules he learned in a classroom. He was making decisions based on “this is awesome.”

Not only that, he achieved a perfect synergy with the cinematographer, Sharone Meir, who probably received just as much, if not more direction from Cross as he did from Damien. That’s just my assumption, of course. But only an editor with a background in music videos joined at the hip to the man behind the camera and an explicit mission from the director to “Go absolutely nuts” could have put together a sequence as ragingly kicka** as this. No, that wasn’t the camera guy turning back and forth. That was the editor with knowledge of what had to be done, the authority to do it, and the talent to do it well.

What’s the point I’m trying to make? I’m not really sure. But I hope anyone who reads this will come away with the impression that whatever talent God has given them is destined to be used to make something special. Something only they can make. Something inside them that was always there, waiting for the means to make itself known to the world. Whatever it is, don’t let anything discourage you from doing it.


NSJ_0621 KennedyStephen Kennedy is a 27-year-old video editor from Connecticut. He has been editing as a hobby since 2006 and holds a bachelor’s degree in creative writing from Western Connecticut State University. Interested in creativity in all its forms, Stephen loves both hearing and telling good stories in any form, be it writing, movies, or music, and is constantly seeking God within all of them.



Center for Creative Media is a Christian film school in Tyler, TX. Attend our acting and video production school for hands-on experience in the field. We offer a different take on teaching, giving students life experience in the film industry.


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